- Can The Pats avoid a 1-2 start?
Sunday Night Football is always a pleasure and it certainly helps when you have last year’s AFC Championship rematch on hand.
Many foresee see those going up against each other in January once again, but one of these teams will have to come back from a 1-2 hole.
Who would of thought that heading into the season when the Patriots were borderline unbeatable and the Ravens looked like a 13-win lock caliber of a team.
Both of those headlines have been put on ice, and this devastating early season matchup will come down to the ability of owning the line of scrimmage.
Ray Lewis is still playing like a beast at middle linebacker, but they miss reining Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs (PUP List).
Suggs will not be back until early Halloween time and Haloti Ngata has been unable to create havoc by his lonesome. While Lewis leads the team in tackles (19), former SEC studs Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) and Dannell Ellerbe (Georgia) are not playing like world beaters at the moment.
They can bottle the run game up, but going against the Patriots is all about pass coverage. Even without Aaron Hernandez Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker can pick you apart on underneath routes.
Gronk will be seen a bit more going deep alongside Brandon Lloyd (hip), and that is because Julian Edelman is being used as the future replacement for one Wes Welker.
Welker had a useless opening week against the Titans, but he stepped up and was featured once Aaron Hernandez went down with an ankle injury that may cost him until Halloween time (worst case, likely 2-3 weeks only).
Welker is second on the team with 16 targets, as Lloyd (21) and Gronk (15) are the more reliable threats for Brady going down the field.
A few dropped passes that have either gone off the helmet or right through the hands of Welker should have Fantasy owners alarmed since there have rumors swirling that he may either be traded or let go after the season (trade could be during).
Tom Brady isn’t one of the ten greatest signal-callers by accident though, and alongside one of the greatest coaches that has ever lived will only give the Pats more ammo with all of the negativity on how their offense will still be effective without Hernandez.
Stevan Ridley has been given ample opportunity to succeed in the ground game, and the offensive line should be able to outslug a Ravens defense that will be out for blood in this one (like always).
The true matchup will be how the Patriots defend Dennis Pitta, who leads the Ravens in targets (23). Jerod Mayo, Don’t’a Hightower and Brandon Spikes will have their hands full and it will be intriguing to see how much pressure they can put on Flacco.
Joe Flacco believes he is a top-five quarterback and this is a game that he better win if Baltimore and (himself included) feel as if they truly are the best team in football.
Time: 8:35 p.m. Eastern
Experts Pick: Ravens by 3
Danny V’s Pick: Patriots 24, Ravens 20